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4 Ways to Discover Your Strengths

Mad Men’s Don Draper is exceptionally good at saving a deal gone sour.

Nadia Goodman

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When a client dislikes an ad campaign, the fictional ad exec can weave the perfect tale to change their minds. His storytelling ability is a gift that no one else at his agency has. To become a successful business leader, identify your own strengths and talents and foster them.

Your strengths are ultimately the keys to your success. “When we do things we’re already good at, our business acumen is quicker,” says Todd Kashdan, a psychology professor at George Mason University and author of Curious? (William Morrow, 2009).

“When it comes to the best way to leverage your ability, it’s (best) to go through your strengths.” he says.

Using these four tips, you can learn to recognise your core strengths. Here’s how:

  1. Watch for signs of excitement. When you engage in an activity you are truly good at, your excitement is visible. Your pupils dilate, your chest is broader, your speech is fast and fluid, and your arms spread wider. “You can see someone feels alive and motivated when they’re using a core strength,” Kashdan says.  Ask a close mentor when you appear most animated or observe yourself for a day. When do you feel most engaged? Most energised? “When people are using their strengths, they pop out of the backdrop,” Kashdan says. (If observation sounds tricky, you can also take an online survey, like the VIA Character Strengths Test to help you identify and rank your greatest strengths.)
  2. Break away from job titles. To uncover your gifts, you need to explore new roles. “Think of your company as a laboratory,” Kashdan says. Encourage flexible roles and see how it goes. “If people are excited about trying something else and you have some evidence that they could be good, then experiment with it,” he says. For example, one executive wanted a more creative, innovative workplace but wasn’t the man to do it himself. Kashdan helped him identify a maverick on his staff – someone creative and unconcerned with others’ opinions – then put that person in charge of innovation. By assigning roles based on strengths, rather than job titles, they were able to create a stronger team.
  3. Notice what you do differently than everyone else. In a situation where you are truly using your strengths, you will stand out from a crowd. Your approach will be unique. To name your strengths, you want to identify those moments and articulate how you are different. Kashdan recalls one executive at an early morning meeting who told an animated story about letting his kids run free at a crowded aquarium. “His focus was not on safety but on promotion,” Kashdan says, highlighting a support for autonomy that would help him manage independent workers.
  4. Describe your strengths creatively. When naming your strengths, avoid what Kashdan calls “wastebasket terms,” meaning overused words like ‘passionate’ or ‘dedicated.’ Instead, come up with a unique term that captures your specific strength.

“By coming up with an exciting word, you avoid all the typical connotations,” Kashdan says. He uses terms like storyteller, autonomy supporter, investigator, energy incubator, and battery. That specificity helps leaders apply their gifts. “Once you can put a word to your strengths, it becomes much more embedded in your everyday life,” he says.

Nadia Goodman is a freelance writer in Brooklyn, NY. She is a former editor at YouBeauty.com, where she wrote about the psychology of health and beauty. She earned a B.A. in English from Northwestern University and an M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Columbia University. Visit her website, nadiagoodman.com.

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Self Development

How You Can Make Failing Part Of Your Growth Strategy

Here’s how you can make failing forward part of your growth strategy.

Entrepreneur

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failure-dominoes

The concept of ‘fail forward’ basically means that it’s okay to fail as long as you learn from your mistakes. Once you shift your mindset regarding failure, it becomes an asset to your growth. What’s not to like about learning?

Here’s how you can make failing forward part of your growth strategy.

1. Take risks

If it’s okay to fail as long as you learn from it, then it’s okay to embrace the idea of taking more risks. Try new things and see if they’ll work. If they don’t, then at least you’ve tried and learnt.

Related: Flourishing Through Failure And Finding Fortune

2. Learn constantly

Failing and learning shouldn’t be one-offs or isolated incidents. They should weave together in a constant stream of learning that builds and rewards as we move forward. That way, we can improve and eventually succeed more often than we fail.

3. Search and reapply

Learn from each other’s mistakes. Marketing is a spectator sport — you can learn from watching each other’s brand activities — both the wins and losses.

4. Accept failure

This one is the hardest step. It’s not easy to fail. It’s not something we’re taught to do. It distracts us from our mission and it takes time away from being successful. Or does it? If you start failing forward daily, not only for yourself, but for your teams as well, you will create an environment where failing forward is accepted and embraced as part of a learning culture that seeks continuous improvement. That improvement includes actively learning from your individual and collective mistakes.

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Self Development

Listening To These 8 Audiobooks On Success Is A Better Use Of Your Long Commute

Commuting is mostly just unpaid work, unless you make an effort to learn something along the way.

John Boitnott

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Commutes are getting longer, and in some cities they’re up to two hours each way. I have a friend in Los Angeles who does this. He passes the time with audiobooks. Now that’s still a lot of time to be stuck in transit, but he doesn’t view it that way. He says it allows him plenty of time to feed his personal and professional goals.

I’ve spent years listening to literature in the car while commuting, but somewhere along the line I switched over to books on business and personal improvement. I mostly gravitated toward amazing people who built their success from scratch and who experienced tremendous hardship. It stands to reason that if you’re dealing with hardships like a long commute, it’s important to hear motivational words that can help you transcend the difficulties.

Here are eight audiobooks that will help grow your success, both personal and professional, on your next commute:

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Self Development

3 Questions To Guide You To Success In 2018

Most of the goals we set have some external component to it. Some component that we cannot control. Yet, we act like we can.

Erik Kruger

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3 Questions To Guide You To Success In 2018

Goal setting as a concept makes perfect sense. At the most basic level you decide on the destination and then plot the way to get there. But as with many things, we like to overcomplicate that which should be simple.

Before you know it, you end up with 2 big goals in 15 different areas of your life and 100 micro goals that will help you reach your 30 big goals.

Complicating something simple. Some of the biggest obstacles to people in reaching their goals are:

  • The overestimate the effort it will take to achieve those goals
  • They want to go from 0-100km/h in the blink of an eye
  • Life is dynamic and static goals often do not make sense
  • They get so entrenched in the day to day running of things that goals get pushed aside.

What if instead of goals, we just focused on giving our best every day?

Of course, you still want to have an indication of where you are going.

But, if you are giving your 100% every day then you can forego the micro goals for a better way of calibrating your compass… using questions.

Related: Goal Setting Guide

I suggest you ask yourself these three questions regularly:

1. What does better look like?

The question at the heart of development and incremental improvement. This question allows you some creative space in which you can imagine a better future.

  • What does better health look like?
  • What does a better business look like?
  • What does better customer service look like?
  • What does better leadership look like?

By reflecting on this question, you materialise the gap between where you are and where you could be. Now, the only thing that is left is to align your daily actions with the better future you imagined.

2. What can I control?

Borrowed from Stoicism this question highlights the power of decision in your life. Epictetus said we should always be asking ourselves: “Is this something that is, or is not, in my control?”

Once you ask this of yourself regularly you will feel more in control of your life and more in control of your business.

Why?

Because your focus is solely on the things that you can influence. It restores the belief that you can actually impact the world around you in a meaningful way.

3. Was I impeccable with my actions today?

One inherent flaw with goal setting is that the goal setter often feels judged. As if we need more of that. In addition to the constant negative self-talk we have to endure we now have an additional source of judgement – whether we reached our goals or not.

As we discovered in question #2 We cannot control everything. Most of the goals we set have some external component to it. Some component that we cannot control. Yet, we act like we can.

So, instead of judging yourself, commit to giving your best every single day.

Related: The Tim Ferriss Approach to Setting Goals: Rig the Game so You Win


Accountability

What I love most about these questions is that they provide a built-in layer of accountability. Use them every day.

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